Originally published on Thursday, February 12, 2015 in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper
I like pretty much everyone in the wine industry, but some folks stand out as favorites, and Hoss Milone, the winemaker for Brutocao Cellars in Hopland, is definitely one of those. Competency without crushing seriousness, affable, likeable, even irreverent at times; when crafting wines, Hoss is all business, making wines that are big, deep, possessed of weight and intensity.
We met at the Brutocao tasting room in Hopland at the Schoolhouse Plaza (Brutocao has another tasting room in the Anderson Valley), and Hoss poured me through his current releases, ably assisted by tasting room host Monica Almond.
First up was the 2013 Brutocao Chardonnay, Hopland Ranches, $17. In a world of Chardonnay trending leaner and unoaked, this was a weighty wine, 100% barrel fermentation and 100% malolactic fermentation. Barrel fermentation means a wine was made in the barrel, malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation that converts malic acid green apple and tart notes to lactic acid cream and butter flavors. I picked up lemon citrus, and tropical banana notes, plus a warmer apple. Hoss told me the wine spent nine months in barrel, and had a sur lie stir every couple of weeks. Sur lie is French for “on lees’ and lees are the spent yeasts after they have converted sugar into alcohol, heat and co2. Holding a wine sul lie can add a textural mouth feel richness, and create a deeper wine flavor profile.
Regarding his Chardonnay, Hoss shared it is made from “five blocks, each subdivided, and different oaks [for the barrels], one to two different yeasts, a spice rack [for blending] fruit and mouth feel.”
Next was the 2012 Brutocao Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, $25. With over one year barrel time, and made, “primarily out of Dijon clones,” this was surprisingly delicate, clean, lovely, and showing lots of apple, pear, vanilla, and caramel.
Hoss told me that the Brutocao Sauvignon Blanc has sold out, and a new one, plus a new Rosé, would be out this spring.
Red wine time, and the list is lengthy.
2010 Brutocao Reserve Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $38. Classic Pinot notes, on a weighty wine, deep cherry cola, forest funk, oak, raisin, herb, licorice. Two years in barrel.
2010 Brutocao Quadriga, Hopland Ranches, $24. A Quadriga is a Roman chariot drawn by four horses, and this chariot’s four Italian horses are Sangiovese, Primitivo, Barberra, and Dolcetto. Darker herb, multi noted, fruit basket, cherry, plum, violet, orange, more cherry, blueberry, raspberry, oh, did I say cherry already? Hoss told me, “Sangiovese is the glue that holds the other varietals together.”
2010 Brutocao Primitivo, Contento Vineyard, $24. Spice, but not peppery, lighter raspberry fruit nose, nice mouthfeel, a little weightier in the mouth with darker raspberry and cassis. “American oak works with Zinfandel, but [although DNA Identical] Primitivo hates it,” Hoss explained, pointing out differences between the two varieties.
2010 Brutocao Zinfandel, Hopland Ranches, $24. The bottle says Zinfandel, but could accurately say Zinfandels, as Hoss said there were, “two vineyards, each split north and south, and three to six yeasts, then differing oak regimens; many notes for blending,” the many resultant Zinfandels into this one Zinfandel. Deeper styled, pepper, leaning to raspberry, oak, cherry, and nuanced rather than a two by four to the head.
The 2009 Brutocao Reserve Merlot is sold out. Hoss said of the reserve wines, “many are available only at the tasting rooms, and still sell out too soon.” In place of the 2009, Hoss poured an early taste of the 2011 Merlot with grapes off the Bliss Vineyard. The grapes were picked the third week of September, well before rains fell in the first week of October that year. This was a really drinkable wine, plummy berry, and soft.
2012 Brutocao Cabernet Sauvignon, Contento Vineyard, $24. Released in June last year, will not last until next release. Blackberry, bright lively acid, anise, oak.
Hoss and I got into a discussion of oak barrels, French and American, and eastern European, but what I noted most was Hoss’ animation, his Italian coming out, as his hands were flying in aid of his words.
2010 Brutocao Uber Tuscan, Hopland Ranches, $24. 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cigar, deep red fruit, anise, raspberry, spice, herb. Terrific wine.
2009 Brutocao Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled, $38. Lovely purple violet color. Floral noted fruit nose. Blackberry, currant, bright herb mouth. Integrated. Big. Hoss goes through all of his wines for a reserve release, and selecting the best barrel of varietal juice for his wine, as barrels unblended yield different wines. As an example, it took a week for Hoss to taste through his 68 barrels of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
2010 Brutocao (Zinfandel) Port, Mendocino, $24/375ml, $38/750 ml. Sweet plummy licorice and blackberry.
NV Brutocao Tawny Port, Estate Bottled, $26/500ml. Solera styled (a little of each vintage is reserved and blended into the next vintage, and so on with each vintage, until the wine you hold is a look back through many previous vintages as well as the current one) going back to 2010, with classic Portuguese grapes and a helping hand from Germain-Robin distillation.
Describing his winemaking influences, his philosophy, Hoss explained, “I’ve been in the vineyard since I was five years old. The taste in the vineyard should be the taste in the bottle.”
In addition to his winemaking duties for Brutocao, Hoss is actively involved in the Coro Mendocino wine program, and is the winemaker blessed with marketing oversight. The Coro group have pulled back the curtain, inviting a wine writer to join the group for the collaborative blind tastings, in an effort to get the word about Coro out to the greater public. John Compisi is that writer, and his multi part series on Coro is being reposted online at my site, JohnOnWine.com, as well as John Compisi’s pages at Examiner.com.
The 2011 vintage Coro Mendocino wines will be poured at special multi course Chef’s Wine Dinners at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah on Wednesday March 18, 2015, and Crush Italian Steakhouse in Chico on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
The 2012 vintage release dinner will be held in June, with the location moved from the Mendocino coast to San Francisco. I will be attending, and will write more about the dinner as we get closer.
For more information about Brutocao Cellars, visit brutocaocellars.com; to reserve seats for the Coro dinner at Crush, call 707.463.0700; and for more information about Coro Mendocino, read archived stories at JohnOnWine.com or visit coromendocino.com.